What does the First Amendment really do?

The First Amendment is one of the bedrocks of our country. It remains as relevant today as when it was enacted on December 15, 1791. The Amendment protects freedom of religion, speech and the press, as well as the right to assemble and to petition the government. It guarantees Americans the freedom to exercise our differences and express our ideas. Above all, the freedoms given to us by the First Amendment inform our government to respect and uphold these rights.

We urge you to mark your calendars for the week of November 13-16, 2017 as Western Piedmont Community College will host the 2017 Fall Speakers Forum/Ervin Constitutional Issues Program with the topic being the First Amendment. Our presenters will focus specifically on the freedom of religion, speech, and press. All presentations are free and open to the public. They will be held in WPCC’s Leviton Auditorium located in Moore Hall [map] with receptions being held after each event.

The Fall Speakers Forum/Ervin Constitutional Issues Program has a long history at WPCC, beginning in 1967. The annual event, hosted by the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences and the Senator Sam J. Ervin Library,  consists of three days where students, faculty, staff, and the local community explore a timely topic and engage in conversation. Discussions have covered a variety of topics over the years and we have an archive of prior Speakers Forum topics online.  The event is sponsored by the WPCC Student Government Association, the Department of Workforce Development and Continuing Education and donors who give to the Western Piedmont Foundation.  To make a contribution in support of the forum, please visit www.wpcc.edu/foundation.

We hope you will make plans to join us for this timely topic this November.



2017 Forum Events

The Right to be Wrong: Why Religious Freedom Belongs to Everyone

Monday, November 13, 7:00 p.m., Leviton Auditorium, Moore Hall [map]

Photo of Asthma Uddin

Asma Uddin

One of the hallmarks of religious liberty is that it protects people of all faiths, even if their beliefs seem strange, confusing, or even just silly. We may think that another’s belief is wrong, but the premise behind religious freedom is that people have the right to be wrong.

This right is very broad, especially in the U.S. But there are also limits to this right. Asma Uddin will explore the right – and its limits — by looking at several American religious liberty cases in the kickoff presentation of the 2017 Forum.

Countries other than the U.S. are far stricter on religious liberty. Ms. Uddin will discuss some of the hot button religious liberty issues in these countries, including, among others, French laws against religious garb and blasphemy laws in Pakistan.

Asma T. Uddin is the Founder and Director of Strategy for the Center for Islam and Religious Freedom (CIRF), a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit engaged at the intersection of Islam and religious freedom. She is also the founding editor-in-chief of altmuslimah.com, a web magazine covering issues pertinent to gender-and-Islam. Uddin also serves as a faculty member at George Mason University Law School and at the Religious Freedom Center of the Washington, D.C.-based, Newseum Institute.

Prior to founding CIRF, Uddin served as counsel with Becket, a non-profit law firm specializing in U.S. and international religious freedom cases, where she represented clients in federal appellate courts and at the U.S. Supreme Court. Uddin is a term member of the Council on Foreign Relations. She has been published by numerous law reviews and prominent university presses and speaks nationally and internationally on religious liberty topics. She is also an expert advisor on Freedom of Religion or Belief at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.



Freedom of Speech: What Is It and Why Should You Care?

Tuesday, November 14, 11:00 a.m., Leviton Auditorium, Moore Hall [map]

Photo of Bob Joyce

Bob Joyce

Central to the American understanding of the relationship between government and citizen is the right of free speech. We cherish that right, but it is not unlimited. When is speech protected and when is it not? What is “speech” anyway, and how has that concept changed in the era of social media? What is the status and what is the future of freedom of speech? Our second program will focus on the Freedom of Speech under the First Amendment and what that really means.

Bob Joyce is a lawyer and a specialist in higher education law (especially community college law). He has practiced law in New York City and in North Carolina and is now the Edwin Hinsdale Distinguished Professor of Public Law and Government at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Bob sponsors conferences for community college administrators and trustees in North Carolina. Each year, he conducts a legal academy at the national convention of the Association of Community College Trustees. He has regularly conducted legal sessions at presidential training seminars of the American Association of Community Colleges.

Bob is a graduate of the University of North Carolina and the Harvard Law School.



Protecting Press Freedom in An Era of New Threats

Thursday, November 16, 7:00 p.m., Leviton Auditorium, Moore Hall [map]

Photo of Caitlin Vogus

Caitlin Vogus

We conclude the 2017 Speakers’ Forum with an exploration of the fundamentals of the First Amendment as it applies to press freedom. There will be a discussion on why a free press is essential to democracy, especially now along with a look at legal issues that impact journalists and the news media. From access to courts and public records to investigations of leaks and electronic surveillance to defamation lawsuits and prior restraints, there is plenty to review! Using both historical and modern day examples, the session will examine the First Amendment principles that protect the free press and the public’s right to know.

Caitlin Vogus is a staff attorney at the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, where she leads the Reporters Committee’s amicus practice.  Ms. Vogus oversees the drafting and filing of friend-of-the-court briefs in cases of importance to the news media.  Most recently, the Reporters Committee has filed amicus briefs in cases concerning access to court records, freedom of information, defamation, and the reporter’s privilege in state and federal courts around the country.  Ms. Vogus also litigates cases on behalf of journalists, most often in cases seeking access to sealed court records or closed court proceedings.

Prior to joining the Reporters Committee, Ms. Vogus was an Attorney Advisor in the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau of the Federal Communications Commission. Ms. Vogus has also served as a law clerk to the Honorable Rossie D. Alston, Jr. of the Virginia Court of Appeals.

Ms. Vogus earned her bachelor’s degree in American Studies in 2007 from the University of Virginia, where she was executive editor of The Declaration, a weekly news and humor magazine. She earned her J.D. from Harvard Law School in 2010.



Please Note

WPCC complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act and will make every effort to honor reasonable requests made by individuals with qualifying disabilities. Accommodations must be requested three business days in advance of school events or activities through the Office of Disability Services in Room 135 Hildebrand Hall or call (828) 448-3153 (voice/video relay). Sign language interpreters will be available at each event.

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